Experts tell us that it takes seven seconds, or less, to form a first impression. Those fleeting moments do not include an exchange of words, they are visual reactions to people, places and things.
In psychology, that impression is formed during the first encounter with another person wherein a mental image of that person is formed. Accuracy varies depending upon the observer and the observed. As to why these impressions are so important, the experts tell us that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse or undo those judgements. Therefore it is in everyone’s interest to create a reflection to the world that speaks to who they are and the message they wish to transmit.
Yes, I know we have had this conversation in the past and yes, I know, I may be harping, but I had a surprising first impression recently while out and about doing interviews for my book. I was to meet a woman for tea in a beautiful Paris hotel. The interviewee was someone who works in the beauty industry. I had background information about her company and her impressive resume so I was looking forward to our meeting.
She arrived before I did and was sitting with a public relations friend of mine who was making the introductions. As always, my friend looked stylish in a light gray flannel shift dress, black opaque tights, black boots, a long pendant necklace, lots of bangles and deep red nail polish.
The woman to be interviewed, in her 50s, was wearing a pair of ill-fitting wrinkled jeans, tennis shoes, a message t-shirt, a wrinkled navy jacket and no makeup.
I couldn’t help myself, I was surprised and disappointed as was my friend. Perhaps under other circumstances her vestment choice would have made sense, for example if we were walking through a field while she explained the natural ingredients in her products.
This was a few weeks ago and I had an interior debate about whether I would or should discuss this with you. Then I read an article in The Telegraph talking about Amal Clooney’s intelligent use of her wardrobe to draw attention to human rights abuse and her recent speech on the subject at the United Nations.
Of course I realize she has a famous husband, unlimited funds and happens to be beautiful and innately chic, but that’s not the point. She is using her clothes to send a message, to say look at me if you wish, but also look at what I’m doing. Maybe her wardrobe can create more media buzz for her remarkable work. Wouldn’t that be extraordinary?
The Internet went wild with comments about the press focusing on style over substance, but she apparently saw an opportunity to advance her serious agenda in an unexpected way. Good for her.
That’s my point. Do we really want to miss an occasion to make a positive first impression? Let’s not be naive, if we can construct the image we desire to convey, we’re already making an affirmative statement. And, here’s the best part: That image of our best selves is totally under our control.